New York: Leaders from government, business, and civil society on Monday announced potentially far-reaching steps to confront climate change at the United Nations Secretary General's Climate Action Summit here on Monday.
As carbon pollution, temperatures, and climate destruction continue to rise, and public backlash mounts, the Summit offered a turning point from inertia into momentum, action, and global impact -- if everyone gets on board.
The UN estimates that the world would need to increase its efforts between three and five-fold to contain climate change to the levels dictated by science -- a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise at most -- and avoid escalating climate damage already taking place around the world.
With the Paris Agreement providing an open-door framework for countries to continuously ratchet up their positive actions, this Summit demonstrates how governments, businesses, and civilians around the world are rising to the challenge.
"The best science, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that any temperature rise above 1.5 degrees will lead to major and irreversible damage to the ecosystems that support us," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.
"Science tells us that on our current path, we face at least 3 degrees Celsius of global heating by the end of the century.
"The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.
"This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk," he added.
Guterres stressed that this was "not a climate negotiation summit" because "you don't negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit".
"Governments are here to show you are serious about enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. Cities and businesses are here showing what leadership looks like, investing in a green future. Financial actors are here to scale-up action and deploy resources in fundamentally new and meaningful ways. Coalitions are here with partnerships and initiatives to move us closer to a resilient, carbon-neutral world by 2050."
The Summit, designed to showcase government, business, and civil society efforts to increase their commitments under the Paris Agreement and work toward reducing emissions to essentially zero by mid-century.
Many countries used the Summit to demonstrate next steps on how by 2020 they will update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with the aim to collectively reduce emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030 and prepare national strategies to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century.
Chile's President, Sebastian Pinera, announced the "Climate Ambition Alliance," which Chile hopes to build in the lead-up to COP25 in Santiago.
The Alliance brings together nations upscaling action by 2020, as well as those working towards achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
As many 59 nations have signaled their intention to submit an enhanced climate action plan (or NDC), and an additional nine nations have started an internal process to boost ambition and have this reflected in their national plans.
In terms of the 2050 group, 66 governments are joined by 10 regions, 102 cities, 93 businesses and 12 investors -- all committed to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
The UN Global Compact demonstrated that business is moving, as companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $2.3 trillion and annual direct emissions equivalent to 73 coal-fired power plants pledged to take action to align their businesses with science-based targets.
Many of the more than 70 key announcements showcase the concrete ways in which countries can better adapt to climate change and cut emissions while getting the necessary technical and financial support many of them need.
Getting out of coal is a priority.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance expanded to include 30 countries, 22 states or regions, and 31 corporations committed to stopping the building of new coal power plants in 2020 and rapidly transitioning to renewable energy.
The Asset Owner Alliance, a group of the world's largest pension funds and insurers, responsible for directing more than $2 trillion in investments, committed to transitioning to carbon-neutral investment portfolios by 2050.
The members of the Alliance will immediately start to engage with companies in which they are investing to ensure they decarbonize their business models.